The first Tourism Police Station in the country has failed to make the tourists feel at home. The station lacks infrastructure. There is only one bike available for the 19 police officers stationed at the station which was set up in 2010. There are no patrol boats.
KOCHI: Well, if the name Tourism Police Station evokes an image of beefy cops going around on well-equipped bikes or cruising the sea on high-powered speedboats like the ones shown on Baywatch, think again. There is nothing special about the tourism police station at Mattanchery that sets it apart from the regular ones.
The station said to be the first in the country, is severely short of infrastructure. There is only one bike available for the 19 police officers stationed at the station which was set up in 2010. Another major deficit is the absence of a patrol boat.
However, despite such handicaps like no authority to register a case or vehicles to patrol the area, the police officers at the station are doing their duty diligently. From the day the station started functioning, the personnel here have been using their own bikes to patrol the area throughout the day.
“We are not complaining. We believe we represent the people of Kerala before the tourists coming from other countries and other states. Any shortcomings on our part will affect state’s image. The patrolling commences at 5 am and ends at 1 am. We have never missed the patrolling duty just because we don’t have a vehicle,” said sub-inspector V B Rashid who heads the police station.
In 2016, as many as 4,07,653 foreign tourists arrived in Ernakulam district. Majority of them also visited Fort Koch and Mattanchery areas. Another key issue that plagues the station is the lack of enough women police officers. There is only one woman police officer at the station. The problem becomes very evident whenever a crime happens against a woman tourist.
A single officer is not enough to complete the necessary proceedings. If statistics are taken into consideration it can be seen that around 50 per cent of the tourists who arrive in Kochi are women. The recent incident at Thiruvananthapuram in which a Latvian woman tourist went missing brings the spotlight on this deficiency.
Even after more than seven years since its establishment, the police station is yet to receive the authorisation to register a case or arrest any accused. They operate at Fort Kochi, Mattanchery, Ernakulam Junction and Town Railway station.
“The tourism police is yet to receive a government order giving it the power to register FIR or arrest any accused. If any crime is reported, we take accused into custody but the arrest has to be recorded by the police station that has the territorial jurisdiction where the incident has taken place. So our role is confined to patrolling and assisting the tourists when required,” an officer at the police station said.
City Police Commissioner M P Dhinesh said since other police stations are also engaged in patrolling, the lack of infrastructure at the Tourism Police station does not in any way affect the security of the tourists. “We have set in place a number of projects to ensure the safety of tourists coming to Fort Kochi. Also, there are sufficient women officers in the police stations at Mattancherry and Fort Kochi. They will support the tourism police when required,” he said.
City Police Commissioner said a few instances where the foreign tourists were duped or robbed have come to the notice of the police. “Steps have been taken to prevent such instances in the future.”
Nandakumar K P, joint director, Department of Tourism, Kerala said compared to other tourist centres in Goa, Mumbai and New Delhi, the crime against tourists is less in Kochi.
“The responsibility of providing safety and security to the tourists lies with the Police Department. We think the police is capable of providing a foolproof security to the tourists who arrive here. Despite the lack of proper infrastructure, the tourism police are doing a good job in ensuring the safety of the visitors to the district,” he said.